Product Review: Sugar, Chocolate, Coffee

Trader Joe’s has interesting spices. I’ve found a quart of Mexican vanilla (fragrant and great for general cooking), smoked salt and paprika (a little smoke goes a long way), and now, a blend of sugar, chocolate and coffee beans. In a grinder jar. I could not resist.

Might as well admit it, I have a love/hate relationship with sugar. I actually think in moderation it’s fine (I respect your view that it is the devil’s organic compound) but I keep moving the boundary of “moderation.”  Unfortunately, I like sugar a bit too much. (Please do not leave long, ranting comments on its addictive and carcinogenic properties. Please.)

I will not voluntarily ingest any artificial sweeteners (I have my own idea of Satanic compounds), so I no longer drink diet soda, eat sugar-free chocolates or any food that contains sugar alcohol. My lower intestinal tract does not like sugar alcohols. My yogurt is unsweetened and unflavored and I like it that way.

Stevia doesn’t warm my sweet little heart, either. Stevia, as the American Dietetic Association says, “should be used in moderation, and a general guideline is to consume no more than 2 milligrams per pound of body weight daily.” For 150-pound person, that means 300 milligrams of Stevia, or 0.010 ounces per day. (One teaspoon of sugar is about four grams or 4,000 milligrams. Six teaspoons of sugar is about one ounce, so 0.06 teaspoons is your limit of Stevia per day). Of course Stevia is “all natural” but so are poison ivy, black widow spiders, arsenic, and lead, and I’m not eating any of them either.

Back to sugar. I like the idea of grinding a light dusting of a mix of sugar, chocolate, and coffee onto my toast or steel-cut oats. I don’t like the idea that the bottle is not refillable. Finish your grinding and the bottle goes into the landfill. That’s enough to make me grind my teeth, but not in a jar.

I’ve waited a long time to get to the taste. And I’ve waited that long because it is the least interesting part of the bottle. It tastes sweet, sure enough, but it does not taste like chocolate or coffee. On toast (I like mine well-done) the toast taste overwhelms both the sugar and the coffee. To get a coffee and chocolate taste, you have to grind up way more than even I, in my most immoderate mood, would not use.

So I won’t buy it again. Much like Gertrude Stein, I believe there is no there there. It’s not chocolatey enough, it’s not coffee-y enough, and it just isn’t worth the price, which was around $2.00.

–Quinn McDonald loves sugar, but not enough to grind it on toast with not enough coffee or chocolate.


20 thoughts on “Product Review: Sugar, Chocolate, Coffee

  1. This post didn’t make me think of sugar or food or products at all. Rather it made me think of false promises. The false promises I’m talking about are the ones people make with the best of intentions – i.e. take this program and we’ll give you XYZ. These are the people who have wonderful, fantastic ideas and lots of them, but haven’t thought them through enough to really know if they can actually keep their promises. But they promise them anyway. And we are let down. I especially didn’t like it when these type of people made promises to my children, and they were let down. They were too young to be so disillusioned. This type of situation is slightly different from buying a food product that doesn’t live up to your expectation because it could be put down to a difference in taste. But really, I expect when someone promises me something, they better darn well know ahead of time that they can deliver or don’t promise it. Quinn, you were promised the taste of sugar, chocolate, and coffee. They darn well should have made sure that you got it!

    • It IS disappointing to be let down; harder still to see your children disappointed. For adults, it’s a way to sharpen discernment without becoming bitter. When I bought it, I checked the price and made sure that if I were disappointed, I would not be angry. It was a good trade.

  2. Ok, so now the question: have you tried to make your own mix of this stuff? Real Dutch process cocoa, instant coffee (I believe that Consumer Reports said that they found Folgers to be about the best of the instants, though I see that Starbucks now makes an instant), and sugar? Myself, I’m odd–I prefer my tastes individually–coffee that tastes only of coffee, tea that is only tea and give me plain ol’ fruit any day, but I’d like to see what proportions might work of this.
    Try Penzey’s spices online, too–they do great little mixes of stuff and I’ve not yet hit a dud.
    No artificials for me–they all give me migraines for some reason and I’m with Julia Child on real oil, real butter, real meat, real food. I find I eat more happily if I stick to real stuff than anything from a box (well except for Duncan Hines’ carrot cake which is delish with cream cheese frosting).

    • Haven’t made my own mix, but it’s an interesting thought. Like you, I’m a coffee and tea purist. No flavors. But this grinder did just kind of make me wonder. I’d use the real chocolate and roasted coffee crystals. I don’t like instant coffee. To me, it doesn’t taste like coffee. But then again, I’ll admit to being weird. And yep, Julia Child was absolutely right.

  3. The idea of the chocolate in the bottle was a good one, too bad it didn’t pan out. I’ll stick to cinnamon with a little pinch of sugar on toast or right now, homemade pumpkin butter is taking the pride of placement in many dishes including hot oatmeal in the morning.
    Tip for vanilla lovers – make your own high quality vanilla. Use a handful of vanilla beans tucked into a large mason jar. Pour in a quart of vodka and place in a cool dark room for a couple of months. The resulting vanilla extract is so much better than what you typically buy in the grocery store. And, the vanilla beans can be used to brew up another batch and then use the beans in your cooking/baking. No waste! Love that so much!

    • Pumpkin butter. . .yum! Mixing it in with oatmeal sounds heavenly. I’ve made my own vanilla extract, and you are right, it’s lovely. I tried it with EverClear, but actually I like it better with a high-quality vodka.

  4. There is nothing as delicious as brown sugar and cinnamon on toast – with lots of butter, of course!! I am tired of all this obsession about food. Remember the egg scare, now eggs are touted as one of the most complete, helathy foods. And then there was the butter scare and we were supposed to eat margarine, and then we are told that margarine is poison because it has hydrogenated oil in it. It,s all marketing and has little to do with concern for the public’s health. I ignore 99% of it and just try to eat what is, logically, most healthy (that means as little processed food as possible) and everything in moderation, that way I get to enjoy a little of everything. Thanks for all your revues and sharing of testing different things.

    • I agree with you–unprocessed and in moderation. It’s the moderation on somethings that’s hard for me. But I would rather eat no cookie than a cookie that tastes like my doormat. And you are SO right–there has been a huge list of things that were horrible and bad, and then it turned out to be a fad, a pay-off of some kind, or blown out of proportion. I remember eggs and margarine, and now it’s wheat. Poor wheat, it’s getting such a bum rap. Three years ago, none of my friends were “allergic,” and now most of them claim to be. It’s amazing how right Alexander Pope was.

  5. Thanks for this information. Here in San Antonio we are about to get our first Trader’s Joe. When I am in Santa Fe I have been known to shop there, but really never known what the fuss is all about. Once I experienced Two Buck Chuck-and rejected it-I saw no real reason to lust after a store of our own
    . I agree with you completely about sugar. I am not giving up my little offerings to the morning cup of java. I would bypass coffee altogether if I had to sweeten with the artificial stuff. I might have been tempted by the little grinder as well.

    Here is what I would love to see in print: a list of pens, paints, brushes, pastels, watercolor pencils that you use most often with most success. Keep the reviews coming and please hurry with that inner critic book-mine has been working overtime!

    • Thanks, Pam, I try to write on a variety of creative things, and for me, food is creative. But, I fully understand your desire for product reviews. If you use the search engine on the blog page or look at the categories drop down, you’ll find product reviews. And they include Derwent Watercolor Pencils, and the link to Grahitint, both of which I love. Here’s the link to the Derwent Watercolor review:

  6. It’s a funny thing, but I find corn syrup–particularly high-fructose corn syrup–a lot more threatening than sugar. But sugar’s bad, too. Think about it: 100 or 200 years ago, it was definitely a luxury product which was expensive, and used only in small quantities. But in the last 100 years, we’ve been inundated with it. And our bodies have have thousands of years to evolve to handle natural sugars from fruit and veggies. But our bodies cannot, CANNOT evolve to handle the flood of artificial foods: hydrogenated oils, high-fructose corn syrup, artificial colorings and flavorings, the list goes on, in a couple hundred years. it will take many generations, but in the meantime, we suffer, literally suffer. it really scares me. Here’s a suggestion for your breakfast toast: take a pinch–just a pinch–of Vietnamese cinnamon (I think Trader Joe’s sells that, too) and sift it on that toast of yours. Vietnamese cinnamon is surprisingly sweet, all by itself, it needs no added sugar. That lovely, spicy, sweet cinnamon will wake up your tastebuds–yes, naturally.

    • I’ll have to try it on my unsweetened yogurt. Or on the whole wheat toast I sometimes have with lunch. But I am interested in the cinnamon for steel cut oats (also unsweetened) or 7-grain mix.

  7. My favorite everyday chocolate is Nutella, the hazelnut-chocolate combo that comes in jars just like peanut butter, and if I’m feeling indulgent I don’t always spread it on anything, just eat it by the spoonful, like peanut butter.

    • I love Nutella, which I discovered in Germany when I was 17. When it showed up in the US, I was entranced. A few weeks ago, an almond version showed up at Trader Joe’s. I bought a jar and my husband tasted it. I raised my eyebrows and looked at him for his evaluation. “Not-ella” he said.

  8. The typography on the label would dissuade me right away!

    As for sugar, as I recall there are many, many kinds of “sugar”. One of my favorites (chemically, that is) is l-sugar, in which the asymmetric molecule is assembled in mirror image of the other “direction”, which was called d-sugar. It’s not a helical molecule like RNA, but still (sort of) has a directionality that can be detected by the way it affects polarized light. Which was a fun experiment, and probably the reason I remember it!

    I believe the L and D scheme is really somewhat obsolete, but the polarizing effect stands. I *think* in some cases there’s even a consequence to nutrition; one or the other occurs very rarely in nature and so is not well metabolized. That is, it’s the same stuff but without the calories.

  9. What a shame, it sounds so wicked and sinful! I believe that if you share something delicious, wicked, and sinful, with with a friend, the badness falls out of it as you cut it! Thats my excuse, and I love sharing with friends, lol!

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